Quentin Tarantino’s Christmas blockbuster “The Hateful Eight” has leaked online — almost a full week before it launches in the cinema.
It’s not the only blockbuster to make its way online recently. “Creed,” “The Revenant,” “Steve Jobs,” “Legend,” and “Joy” have all popped up on piracy sites, according to a round-up by torrent news site TorrentFreak, with one piracy group promising dozens more in the weeks ahead.
So what’s the reason behind this piracy bonanza? It’s all down to the time of year. No, not Christmas — awards season.
Ahead of the Oscars, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes, and everything else, the judges for these events are sent out review copies, or screeners, of the films to watch. These, inevitably, make their way online.
These leaks are inevitably some of the best films of the year — because those are the ones sent to awards judges for consideration.
Pictured above is the top two search results for “The Hateful Eight” on a popular piracy torrent site. The terms “DVDScr” and “DVSCREENER” indicate they are advance screener copies sent out; the provenance of a pirated movie is typically signalled with a tag like this. It might have “CAM” to indicate it was recorded on a camera in the theatre, for example, or “BrRip” to signal it was ripped from a Blu-Ray copy.
The tag at the end — “Hive-CM8,” or “ShAaNiG” — refers to the group that leaked that file. It’s there so they can get recognition for their “work,” and compete with one another to release the highest-quality files fastest.
Of course, movie studios aren’t keen to see this happen, and will include anti-piracy measures with the films to try and prevent it. The DVDs sent out might contain DRM (digital rights management) software that tries to prevent unauthorised copying taking place. And the films will often have unique watermarks, so that if one leaks, the studio can (in theory) trace it back to whoever was sent that particular watermarked version.
But, inevitably, some always make it out anyway — and this year is shaping up to be a particularly good one for pirates. Hive-CM8 — who leaked “The Hateful Eight” — claims to have a whopping 40 films to release. “DVDScreener 1 of 40, will do them all one after each other, started with the hottest title of this year, the rest will follow,” the group say.
“The Hateful Eight” has been affected by a leak before. In 2014, its script was leaked online — prompting director Quentin Tarantino to cancel the film, before changing his mind. The plot focuses on bounty hunters in post-Civil War Wyoming.